On Saturday, President Obama announced that the United States would contribute $3 billion towards the international Green Climate Fund, intended to help poorer nations address the devastating effects of climate disruption. The pledge, made in advance of the 2014 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru next month, places the U.S. as a leader in the global move towards mitigation of climate change and concurrent adaptation.
Yesterday, President Obama came to an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to curb greenhouse gas emissions in both countries. This agreement comes in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, next month.
In response to the announcement of the U.S.-China climate agreement, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action, said in a statement:
“Though far from perfect, this week’s agreement between the U.S. and China, the world’s two most carbon emitting nations, is a positive step toward addressing the crisis of climate change… We are reminded of the words of Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, that it is not our responsibility to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. The U.S–China deal is a recognition by leaders of both nations that they have a responsibility to current and future generations to respond to the challenge of climate change. We will continue to work to ensure that this plan is not the end of the process of addressing climate change, but one step toward a healthier future for our earth and all its inhabitants.”
Monarch butterflies are dying. Specifically, over the past 20 years, as global temperatures rise due to climate disruption, and milkweed — the monarch butterfly’s primary source of food – is killed by ever-stronger herbicide sprays, the worldwide population has declined 90 percent. It is for this reason that the butterflies, known for their spectacular migration from Mexico to Canada and back (and their recognizably symmetrical wings), need to be added to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, the butterflies will become one more of the 50,000 species that become extinct worldwide each year.
Jewish tradition teaches us to care for our Earth — to preserve that which God has created. The rabbis developed the principle of bal Tashchit (do not destroy), which forbids needless destruction. Rather, we are encouraged “l’vadah ul’shamrah,” to till and to tend, to become the Earth’s stewards. In Genesis after the great flood (9:9), God declares that the Covenant established is one between God and all the creatures on the planet. These principles, among many others, highlight the Jewish concern toward creation and our mandate to preserve it, for our own sake and for the sake of the Covenant. Read more…
Welcome to the month of Cheshvan! As the leaves turn and November winds begin to bluster, let’s keep in mind small ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint and act as stewards of the environment.
This November, as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center and a recent college graduate, I am having the both freeing and somewhat overwhelming experience of living in an apartment where I can actually control our energy usage far more than I could in a college dorm room. While I’m not quite ready to petition my building management to install solar panels, I am looking for ways to minimize my impact on the environment. There are some small things that I think I – and you – can do in 5775 to contribute to the project of environmental stewardship. This blog post is the second in a monthly series of changes that I am going to make my life a little greener this year, which I challenge you try with me throughout the year.
In the month of Cheshvan, I am going to turn down my thermostat when I leave the apartment. This is a very small change that will easily become a habit for me, but it has a huge impact in reducing my energy usage. Not only is this an energy efficient challenge, it also saves money. According to Energy.gov, “By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill.” By turning down our thermostats, we can minimize the damage done to our earth when we use unnecessary energy to heat our homes and uphold our Jewish obligation not to destroy our earth and not to waste its resources, bal taslich (Deuteronomy 20:19).
If you’re interested in doing more for energy efficiency, talk to your congregation about enrolling for GreenFaith’s Energy Efficiency Certification or register for the GreenFaith Energy Stewardship webinar series. You can also check out my Green Tishrei Challenge to stop using plastic bags and take action by signing on to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan Proposal.
There are 35,000 walruses stranded right now on the beaches of northwest Alaska. Walruses, which rely on sea ice to rest periodically, are having a harder and harder time finding it in the Bering Sea due to ice sheets melting from rising global temperatures. Scientists, including those at the Walrus Research Center in Anchorage Alaska, have serious concerns over whether walruses will be able to adapt to shrinking sea ice levels. They may very well become one of the wide array of species that we can expect to go extinct as climate disruption ravages our planet.
Yesterday I was one of over 310,000 people to march across Manhattan the weekend before the UN Climate Summit with the People’s Climate March. Together, we asked our leaders both domestically and internationally to support a strong, global commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the most vulnerable communities worldwide from the devastating effects of climate change. The march included a broad swath of people from environmental, labor, scientific and faith communities. In the hours leading up to the March, Reform Jews stood side by side with Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Unitarians, Southern Baptists, seekers and pagans for an interfaith prayer service. On a stage propped up in front of an inflatable mosque and an interfaith arc, we watched Rabbi Arthur Waskow give a benediction, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach lead a niggun, monks, preachers, imams and priests all provide blessing in their traditions for the march, the UN Summit leaders, and the earth.
In advance of the UN Climate Summit beginning tomorrow, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Director of the Commission on Social Action, issued the following statement:
“We are pleased to join with others in the environmental, scientific and faith communities in urging our domestic and international leaders this week to make a strong commitment to curbing climate change and its effects. This past weekend, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were proud to partner with HUC-JIR and Reform congregants and congregations from the greater New York area and beyond to be part of the 300,000-plus who participated in the People’s Climate March to express our shared commitment to achieving a solution to the current climate crisis.
As people of faith, blessed to live in a nation with the resources and ability to be a climate leader, we have a moral obligation to address the devastation of climate change that is already wreaking havoc on the air we breathe, water we drink and earth that sustains us. Yet only with a concerted international commitment to tackling this challenge can we ensure that we pass on a healthy earth as we pass on our sacred traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We must act in particular for the sake of the most vulnerable – the sick, children, the elderly and others living in communities ill-equipped to respond to the increasing instances of flooding, drought, food shortages, and disease associated with climate change.
We look forward to this week’s summit renewing the global commitment to stemming climate change and to meaningful engagement from individuals, corporations, communities, and nations.”